Intro: Strength, the only reason to exercise
Where to start?
Before starting a workout program, the first thing you should understand is that body composition is 90 percent diet and 10 percent everything else.
So, if your only goal is weight loss, focus 90 percent of your effort on your diet and spend at least a half hour each day walking. Seriously—if that is your goal, stop reading. Implement a diet strategy and start walking. Come back and read this when those two things are ingrained into your daily life.
If you’re still with me, you’re looking for more than just weight loss. Let’s start by looking at movement through a better lens. I say movement when I refer to things that are necessary to be a fully functioning human being: the ability to walk, stand up straight, squat deep enough to defecate, pick something up safely, or get off the ground without using your hands, for example.
Movement in general is absolutely necessary in order to help prevent heart disease, obesity, and back pain. It also improves your mood, your sleep, your sex life, and your mental capacity.
Exercise can help all those things too, but the only reason to create a regimen is to build strength. Exercise is not imperative—movement is. However, ramping up your movement after living a predominantly sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous. (Yup, I just said moving is dangerous.)
Why? Likely because your muscles have become too weak to do the type of movements you’d like to attempt. The best example of this is running.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: Someone you know decides their health and fitness is getting away from them, so they sign up for a marathon and start training. Because they’re out of shape, the plan is to start at one mile and work upward. No problem, right?
Actually, there are a lot of problems.
First off, a marathon is for elite athletes and experienced runners only. Second, if you haven’t been running in years, you shouldn’t attempt it out of the blue. Running properly requires a ton of base strength, and going in unprepared is a good way to get hurt. The most common injuries you see in the gym are from people running either too much too soon or with bad form. Both can do a number on your body in the form of shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and meniscus tears.
And yet, most people are still convinced you have to run to get back in shape. You don’t. Running is not the most effective form of exercise, nor does it offer any benefit that can’t be achieved through a lower-impact activity.
I’m not saying running is bad. If you like to run or play sports, you absolutely should. Just be sure you have the strength to do so without hurting yourself before you start.
So, since running most likely isn’t the best start for your individual strength journey, what is?
Remember, our basic movement goals include the ability to walk properly, stand up straight, squat deep enough to defecate, pick something up safely, and get off the ground without using your hands. Let’s start with the first two, which are often overlooked. People generally think they’ve got these covered, but I’d bet you have room for improvement.